Politics & Policy

Good Vets, Bad Vets. The Inimitable Thk. Flat Tax?! and More.

Let me get this straight: Vietnam vets–especially those who served with Kerry–are allowed to praise him to the skies. But Vietnam vets–including those who served with Kerry–are not allowed to criticize him. We revere veterans when they’re for Kerry; we revile them when they’re against.


John McCain is one who instructs us that we must not say a word. He has just said, “I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam. I think George Bush served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard . . .” Funny, but not so long ago he was mocking Bush for “defending Texas.” I guess this is an improvement.

You’ve heard the maxim, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Who knew that it applied to an American presidential campaign?

‐Teresa Heinz Kerry said that another term of Bush would give us “four more years of hell.” At the Democratic convention, Ted Kennedy said, “The only thing we have to fear is four more years of George Bush.” But no one can say that this party is unhinged, that it has lost its marbles. That would be downright . . . Soviet!

‐More unhingedness? Howard Dean is one of the Dems who suspect that the Bush administration manipulates terror alerts for political advantage. Of a recent alert, Dean said, “Isn’t it unusual they might choose two days after the Democratic national convention, when John Kerry was in the middle of his bounce?”

Was in the middle of his bounce. That is a campaign phrase to remember.

In truth, the Bush administration is damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t. If it “connects dots,” it’s being paranoid or alarmist. If it doesn’t, it’s being derelict. If it warns the public, it is being political; if it doesn’t, it’s being, again, derelict. Let us simply realize that nothing, nothing will ever satisfy today’s Democrats. You might as well go ahead and do the right thing.

Of course, this is the same Howard Dean who says that the administration is interested in book burning, not book reading. And this is the party, many of whose members think that Osama bin Laden is being kept “on ice,” to quote one prominent Democrat–ready to be displayed at a politically opportune moment.

As a reader of mine pointed out: In one breath, the Democrats use the mocking phrase “Osama bin Forgotten”–meaning that Bush has ignored the Qaeda leader, “diverting” us to Saddam instead; in the next breath, they’ll tell us that Bush has already bagged bin Laden.

No, you just can’t win.

‐Oh, hang on, more Dem unhingedness. Get this from THK: “We [Americans] don’t have to fear being hung from a lamppost or shot or sent to jail. Not yet. Not yet. And, please, God, not ever.”

Uh-huh, uh-huh–this is exactly the Democratic party today, as I know it. If Ashcroft takes just a few more steps . . .

‐As you know, John Kerry did something low–another thing low–in mocking President Bush for his behavior in that Florida schoolroom: “Had I been reading to children, and had my top aide whispered into my ear [that] America was under attack, I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the president of the United States had something he needed to attend to.”

Uh-huh. The White House is taking pleasure in circulating Kerry’s words from June 8, on the Larry King show: “And as I came in [to a meeting in Senator Daschle’s office], Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid were standing there, and we watched the second plane come in to the building. And we shortly thereafter sat down at the table and then we just realized nobody could think, and then boom, right behind us, we saw the cloud of explosion at the Pentagon.”

Nobody could think, huh, for all that time? Between the second World Trade Center plane and the Pentagon? Yeah, that’s rough-and-ready Kerry.

‐Did you see the New York Times Book Review yesterday? It was hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. First, there was an exchange in the Letters section between Eric Alterman and Alan Wolfe. The latter had written a review, mentioning Alterman and Brent Bozell, among others. Alterman wanted to be sure that people knew that he was great and Bozell rotten. Wolfe responded, essentially, “Oh, I know, believe me, that you are great and Brent Bozell is bad!” You have to read it to believe it.

And then there was the review by Leon Wieseltier of the new Nicholson Baker novel, all about assassinating President Bush. Wieseltier went on at considerable length about how, justified as Bush hating may be, horrible as the Right may be, assassination is going too far. This qualifies Wieseltier as a level-headed moderate. Such is today’s climate. No, it’s wrong–no matter how much the Right baits us–to indulge in “wild talk” about killing President Bush!

Whew, that’s a relief! Almost as much of a relief as knowing that Kerry would respond to terrorists if we were attacked.

In an essay I had in the August 3 issue of National Review (“The Joy of Tokenism“), I told about being at an Upper East Side dinner party, where the hostess expressed the wish that the “Pennsylvania plane” had gone to the White House, killing George Bush.

But I don’t want you to forget: The Republican party is the party of extremists and crazies. You’ve heard it all your life. Why stop believing it now?

‐Have some more John Kerry: “There’s nothing conservative about a certain attorney general from somewhere who stomps on the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans.” Stomps. This is not only idiot talk–it could be dangerous talk, as the nominee’s hearers begin to believe it.

‐Saddam had Ansar al-Islam, a terror group, train in Iraq’s north–but don’t let anyone tell you that Saddam had any connection whatsoever to terror. Anyway, may I tell you how I remember the name of this group? I relate it to A.N.S.W.E.R.

That may be unfair (though I doubt it), but it works for me.

‐All right, on to something lighter: The Netherlands may ban unsolicited toe-licking. That’s damn near authoritarian, for Holland. I especially like the line of two parliamentarians, arguing for a law: “How can you explain that we can prosecute someone for throwing a cigarette butt or soda can on the ground, but not for this kind of misbehavior [i.e., unsolicited toe-licking]?” (The AP story is here.)

‐Back to something a bit more serious: As you know, I keep hoping that presidents, and candidates, will talk to black Americans as they do to all other Americans. I think I once said, “I’d give anything if an official or candidate went before a black group and talked about missile defense.” Well, I see in a New York Times report, on the president’s recent speech to a convocation of black journalists, that “Mr. Bush, who delivered a version of his campaign stump speech and did little to tailor his remarks to the group . . .”


‐Speaking of hallelujahs: Sen. Sam Brownback, the Republican from Kansas, floated the idea that the president may back a flat tax. I’ll believe it when I see it. But I can’t help quivering a little with excitement. Would the politics of envy ever permit a flat tax? I doubt it–but one can dream a little.

‐The Republican party of Illinois–Land of Lincoln–is a mess. I think we’ve witnessed a disgrace, or something close to it. We have essentially forfeited that Senate seat, and we didn’t have to. Did we? Now we have brought in a ringer, Alan Keyes. I will say only this: Any Keyes-vs.-Obama debate would be a kick to see. As far as I’m concerned, you could even make it pay-per-view.

National Journal quotes a trial lawyer at the Democratic convention: “Oh, it’s over the top. The stars lined up, absolutely. This is the absolute A-team.”

The gentleman was talking about the Democratic ticket from the point of view of his profession.

‐From the New York Post: “Eartha Kitt is convinced that the superior construction of her Range Rover is what saved her from being injured when her vehicle was ‘nipped in the derriere’ and flipped over near her Connecticut home the other day.” But doesn’t she know that such vehicular behemoths are bad, bad, bad? Doesn’t she read the New York Times? Books?

‐Speaking of books, I’ll give you one that should be a sure bestseller–I mean, has there ever been a title more geared to sell books? “Sex with Kings.” (Subtitle: “500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge.”) (Author, Eleanor Herman.) Folks, if this doesn’t sell . . .

‐Okay, I’m gonna give you a few letters, then a message or two. A reader writes, “John Kerry said, in his acceptance speech, ‘That is the kind of America I will lead as president–an America where we are all in the same boat.’ Great! When will the federal government be giving me my billionaire, heiress wife? Can I request that she look like Charlize Theron?”

‐Another reader: “I was in New York City helping my brother move into his new Village apartment. We were minding our own business, walking into Bed, Bath & Beyond (no jokes, please), when we were approached by two young girls (I say ‘girls’ because of the way they acted). Both were holding ‘Beat Bush’ clipboards and asked if we would like to help them ‘beat Bush.’ I, being the conservative I am, could only react by laughing and walking on. As I did this, one of the girls said, ‘It’s not funny! This is the future of our country at stake,’ to which I calmly replied, ‘And that is exactly why I am voting for Bush.’ The girl’s response was predictable: a flurry of curse words. Nice folks you have there!”

I know.

‐Ah, this reminds me: A friend of mine found a bumper sticker, in Soho, I believe (still NYC): It said, “Vote Republican,” and it showed a swastika. Nice people we have, yes.

‐Oh, yeah, wanted to say one more thing (before we continue with letters): U.S. athletes in Athens have been advised not to wear anything identifying themselves as American, outside the competition–too dangerous. This reminds me a little of American backpackers, who for years have placed the Canadian maple leaf on those packs, to avoid harassment. Now, surveys have shown that Greece is the most anti-American country in Europe, and I’m sensitive to security concerns: but I wish we could tell those anti-Americans to shove it, in the immortal words of our heroine.

‐This is kind of interesting: A reader tells me that real-estate agents in Beverly Hills are using a codeword for Middle Easterners: “Canadians.” “Oh, that fellow looking for a house on Rodeo? Canadian.” Why is this so interesting? Because “Canadian” was exactly the codeword for Jew, at least in Washington, D.C.–which I happen to know about–not so long ago. E.g., “Do they let Canadians into that club?” “Are you kidding?”

Nice to know that our neighbors to the north can be so useful.

‐And here is a letter sent to the International Herald Tribune by Jack Jolis, a friend of NR:

Dear Sir:

I was told today by my (major) Belgian bank that it will take “at least” four weeks for a check in euros from a (major) French bank to clear. (As I was picking myself up from the floor I was further advised that the same applies to checks from Italy.)

I am sorry if I am the first American to have to break this disobliging news to my European friends, but if this is the sort of financial and bureaucratic arrangement they find suitable for the 21st century, then all talk that Europe will ever be in a position to counter the United States is so much laughing gas. In addition to this extraordinary state of affairs in banking, we have a European population either unwilling or incapable of reproducing itself; a seemingly permanent double-digit level of unemployment; an increasingly oxymoronic “work force”; a continental (non-British) military happily incapable of defending itself from its own collective mother-in-law; and a Brussels-based superstate that for all its democratic responsiveness might as well be off sunning itself on Mars.

To borrow from William F. Buckley Jr., if Europe had any ham it would have a ham sandwich, if it had any bread.

Yes, indeed, many of us Americans think John Kerry would make a fine president–of France.

‐Friends, we won’t have another Impromptus until sometime in the last week of August, I guess. This scribbler will be at the Salzburg Festival, moderating the symposia of the International Festival Society, and doing some other things. Drop by, if you like.

And I must apologize–as I do periodically–for not getting to (the bulk of) my mail. Life has not allowed. Thank you for understanding, if understand you do, and I’ll catch you later.


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